Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Generalizability of a Measure of Work-Related Subjective Experiences for People with Psychiatric Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Generalizability of a Measure of Work-Related Subjective Experiences for People with Psychiatric Disabilities

Article excerpt

The social and economic marginalization of people with mental illness is exacerbated by extensive non-participation in the labor force and long term unemployment. In Australia for instance, 73.8% of healthy working age residents were employed either full time or part time, whereas only 16.3% of people with schizophrenia, and 21.1% of people with psychotic disorders, were similarly employed (King et al., 2006).

Despite the employment restrictions often associated with psychiatric disabilities, when asked, most people report a willingness to work (Macias, DeCarlo, Wang, Frey, & Barreira, 2001) and often identify employment as a key recovery goal (Lehman, 1995). Employment is important to people with mental illness because it allows participation in the community as equal members of society and provides opportunities for positive regard from others, which contributes to increasing recovery motivation, self-esteem, self-identity and quality of life (King et al., 2006; Lehman, 1995).

A useful framework for understanding vocational recovery among people with psychiatric disabilities is the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) (Fabian, 2000; Lent & Maddux, 1997). This theory links personal characteristics, illness characteristics, and environmental factors such as family background, social and cultural contexts that collectively shape individual career learning experiences, self-assessments of performance, and expectations of success. The SCCT assumes reciprocal effects of personal, behavioral and environmental factors which influence career choice, goals, and performance from both prior and current career learning experiences (Fabian, 2000).

Waghorn, Chant and King (2005) recently reported a new measure of work-related subjective experiences perceived to impact on employment functioning. These personal experiences are described as arising at the intersection of individual characteristics, diagnostic symptoms, and work performance expectations (Waghorn et al.), revealing new information about the nature of an individual's specific illness experiences, perceived employment restrictions, and career learning experiences. These subjective experiences can be accommodated within the SCCT (Fabian, 2000; Waghorn, Chant, & King, 2007; Waghorn et al.). In this expanded theory (see the two middle boxes in column two of Figure 1), work-related subjective experiences add a new internal mechanism by dynamically influencing work-related self-efficacy, which in turn affect performance accomplishment and the nature of career learning experiences (Waghorn et al., 2007).

At a theoretical level we also expect the SCCT to be applicable to healthy adults and adults with health conditions and disabilities other than psychiatric disorders. This first investigation aimed to test this expectation by exploring the generalizability of a measure of work-related subjective experiences to a reference group of healthy working age adults. The new scale is potentially more informative in a vocational setting than the GHQ-30 because all 38 items are rated for impact on employment. Each item is a potential intervention point in vocational rehabilitation. The new scale promises to facilitate greater understanding of each individual's subjective experiences, and how each subjective experience contributes to existing employment restrictions at an individual level (Waghorn et al., 2005).


Criterion validity, test re-test reliability and internal consistency of the work-related subjective experiences measure were investigated in a non-clinical reference sample of working age adults who typically work similar part time hours to people with psychiatric disabilities who succeed in attaining employment. Successful application of the measure to this reference group is important because it supports the applicability of the measure to healthy adults, people with mental illness symptoms in remission, and to people with less severe mental health problems. …

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